Colin Powell on “Reverse Racism” and Sotomayor

Colin Powell - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2003
Creative Commons License photo credit: World Economic Forum

Colin Powell has an interesting comment on Judge Sonia Sotomayor in a CNN Sunday interview: (HT/ Thinkprogress)

[She] seems like a gifted and accomplished woman. She certainly has an open and liberal bent of mind but that’s not disqualifying. But she seems to have a judicial record that seems to be balanced and tries to follow the law. And so I hope we do have a spirited set of hearings. And Supreme Court confirmation hearings tend to always meet that standard. And she ought to be asked about everything from both the left and the right. What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor who is announced, and based on one simple tricky but nonetheless case that the Supreme Court has now decided have her called a “racist,” or a “reverse racist” and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her.

Fortunately the senators who will sit on this hearing in the Judiciary Committee after a few days of this kind of nonsense said, “Let’s slow down. Let’s examine her qualifications and the way we’re supposed to at a confirmation hearing.” […] And when you have non-elected officials such as we have in our party [Limbaugh] who immediately shout racism or somebody who is quite prominent in the media says the only basis upon which I could possibly have supported Obama was because he was black and I was black even though I laid out my judgment on the candidates, then we still have a problem.

At this rate, will the Republican party get down to just ten or so serious Latino and black and Latino members sometime soon?

It is interesting too how often whites control the public discourse and terminology these racial discussion are carried out with — with such post-civil-rights-movement, white-invented terms as “reverse racism” and “model minority” — not to mention the basic racial word “white,” which was created in the 17th century in its modern racial sense.


  1. Dr. Feagin,

    This is off-topic, but I’m curious what your opinion of the NYT article “Why the Imp in Your Brain Gets Out” about how social psychologists have shown that attempting to suppress “bad impulses” such as thinking of negative stereotypes about black males in socially ambiguous situations makes stereotyping of black males worse. Is Carey making an implication about “political correctness”? What are the social implications of this sort of research? How can we as a society move to a place where black males are not so negatively stereotyped without pointing out and acknowledging how those stereotypes are operating in our daily lives? ( )

  2. Joe

    LaSmart, I have not seen that research, but it does sound elementary, in that thinking about something (in a good or bad way) tends to reinforce it in the brain. But you are right you have to point out oppression to deal with it. One way to do that is to reframe the discussion of black men into a positive frame (as the heroes of this society, in many ways –such as the 200,000 black male soldiers who probably won the Civil War for Mr. Lincoln, or all the civil rights heroes, or all the current soldiers and blue collar workers who keep this country going) and to reframe the white majority as the “problem” in this society. Our central racial problem in the US is the majority of whites, esp. of white men, who keep our racist system going — and the white racist framing of society they created that negatively stereotypes and targets black men (and women and other people of color).We need to constantly reframe away from that dominant white racial frame into a true liberty and justice framing that positions white men (and whites generally) as the main barriers to liberty and justice and black men and women as the strong carriers of the liberty and justice, and indeed hard work, ideals.

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